Our cottage is at the end of a row of what were eight farm labourers' cottages. An access road runs in front of all the cottages binding us with a ribbon of asphalt, tying together neighbours and friends. It can be lonely when my husband is away in London. At dusk, when the children tip into sleep, I step outside and walk along the access road a little way, stopping to look across the fields, waiting for the lighthouse to blink, for the bats to notice me, swoop down and then away. I walk past the empty, ranked, blank windows. I think: "This is their cottage home from home. This one theirs. And this one here, is theirs." I nudge a wooden bench tighter against a wall, lift up and right a terracota pot, wonder: "Will she come this weekend or next?...How soon will they be up? Half-term perhaps?" I think what I might say, what he or she might say to me. I hope we make good neighbours; like to think we do.
By happenchance, we own the access road, all packaged up neat with gardens, a drying green and a cess pit when we came to buy the house. My baby girl with her scitter scatter run, a glance behind, one elbow tucked into her side, the other arm pumping up and down, is off along the road, giggling, sooner than a blink. After we moved back in, we wanted to gate it to stop children, more particularly, the baby girl, staggering into the real world only to be caught up, twirled around and tossed out of it again.
A Northern city neighbour, his cottage retreat far away from the passing traffic, advised us in a letter: he did not like the wooden farm gate plan. He "copied in" the other cottage folk. Concerns for the safety of all our children could be "easily remedied" he suggested with a plan. As follows:
We should clear up the front of our house. He wrote: "I am sorry to say that access into the cottages has become more difficult recently because of the location of the collection of furniture, plants and toys amassed outside of your property ...". He made the point that our "collection" made driving past the property "very difficult and potentially dangerous." We Northumbrians are reasonable people; he had a point. We moved the plastic Wendy house, the wooden castle walls, lined up the herb pots, pushed bikes and large, plastic tractors down onto the terrace.
He said the gates would mean people would have to stop on the main road and get out of their cars to cross the road to open and close them. Another reasonable point. We moved the gates along the access road so that drivers can swing in off the main road before having to get out of the car to open them. I asked my husband how he felt about becoming a gatekeeper; visitors could beep their horns when they wanted the gates open or shut and he could scurry out and open or shut it, holding out his hand for a shilling tip as they drove through. I said: "Think of it as diversification." He said: "No," or something to that effect.
Our neighbour also offered to reintroduce "Slow. Children Playing " signs on the main road and to have them made up for us. I do not know if he was planning to make up the "Oops, You Just Ran Someone Over", for a little further along if they did not catch the first sign.
He also suggested the "installation of 'child gates' to the front doors of those properties with very young children". (We are the only parents with "very young" children in the road.) For the sake of his occasional visits to his occasional home, he thought I might gate in my country child. Better this, than he gets out his car.
We might also gate our garden and the drying green, the letter made the point. And parking, do not forget the parking. His letter said we might adopt a "parking policy of reversing in to the road in front of the cottages which allows all drivers to park their vehicle as close to their property facade as possible and get into/out of their vehicles from the drivers side. (Nowadays, a common Health and Safety practice)."
If we were to go ahead, we might consider the turning circle and sweep of various vehicles which might wish to access the cottages; he helpfully provided us with diagrams of the turning circles of a private car, pantechnicon, refuse collection vehicle, medium commercial vehicle, fire appliance, and the largest commercial vehicle. I wish he had included the immense "static" holiday homes you see on trailers as you drive these country roads. You watch the house roll up the road towards you, taking up both narrow lanes as it rounds the bend, you think: Now, right now, is when I die." Then it sweeps above your head and past.
I am, I tell the bats, a cautious, fear-filled mother first, a good neighbour second. The gates are up. Open. Shut.
good on you.
why on earth didn't he just ring you?
Hoo-bloomin-ray. What a complete jobs' worth. I suggest you forward his original mail to all the 'parents of very young children' at his place of work. He can then deal with the fall-out. (And aren't blogs great places to vent - as Iota puts it?)
I work in a small community in the States and I can tell you that almost every resident in the town is exactly like your neighbor. It drives me in sane. Instead of calling each other, they call the city or write letters to each other to complain.
I say "Good for You" for putting up the gates. If he is too lazy to open the gates, you can cross your fingers and toes and pray that he moves!
Too right - you do not need anyone's permission to put safety measures like this in place. I had two gates when my girls were little - the second half way down the drive so that no passing opportunist with evil on his/her mind could lean over the main gate and pick a child up. Neurotic maybe but it gave peace of mind.
Shades of my time at Halton-Lea Gate. We had a neighbour like that too. Every bvillage seems to have them. Proper misery guts aren't they? We had small children then. same problems. We sorted it infavour of the children's safety. The rest of the village approved. So to the other guy, I say, "Tough! just get out of your car and open the gate and if its raining... You're not made of sugar, you won't melt."
Gawd you got me rantin' now.
I think I'll have to post an image on my Blog of the old place sometime.
Good on you. I have to get out of the car everytime I come home to open the farm gates, just to make sure dogs don't roam and sheep stay home. It doesn't kill me. It doesn't kill the postman, the delivery men, the neighbours, friends. Tell him that if he ever gets a dog he'll be pleased with said gates.
Hi, Wifey. You don't say whether you consulted the others when you put up the gates, but i have to say that if you did not, and the gates restrict their access to their own properties, then it does sound as if you have upset them rather than the other way round. I mean the other neighbours were there first, right, and enjoying the status quo?
I am afraid I live in a communal settlement where some people do daft things without consulting their neighbours and wonder why they have some opposition. It works wonders when people actually consult one another without just doing their own thing. When they don't, it does create tension and upset. I can understand you might fear for your children's safety but then it would be equally dangerous if your house fronted on to a busy London road, like ours. Maybe the kids could be contained in the back garden? Just a suggestion??? Maybe the man is scared of you, hence the letter. He might be afraid you'll mention him in your blog!!
Kids safety comes first, ignore him. If it's your land do what you think is right for you and your family,
well - if you own the access road and they upset you then could yu not charge them rent each year to maintain their right of access ? Just like the lords of the manor are now doing.
Am I missing something here? Is it wifey's land or the communal access road that the gate is on??
Good walls make good neighbours...
As i think Rober Frost might have said.
If he has time to write detailed letters and draw up diagrams, I am betting he can find the time to get out of his car and open gates!
Love thy neighbour - you never know when you might need them.
Sorry about your neighbour. I note, with a wry smile, that he complained about your untidy frontage. I think he needs to chill out a bit. I wonder if he is a bit of a 'perfect percy', similiar to my neighbour. He even makes his hollyhocks stand to attention, by binding them to tall, thick stakes. Thanks for sharing your experiences, thoughts and life with us.
Lest there be any doubt I am not the sort of occasional northerner who on his occasional vists to his occasional (southern) home aggravates his neighbours (except on the one occasion when a neighbour caught us having shopped in Berwick on the way down instead of at the Co-op in the village!)
I am also scared of traffic and roads, when it comes to looking after my young daughter, who I think must be about the same age roughly as your little girl. Sometimes I lie awake at night worrying about bad things that might happen, and thinking about what I can do to protect her. Even my husband, who is very mild, thinks like me on this one. It's difficult to keep an eye on them all the time - must be more so when you have older children. So good luck, Wifey. I wish I could say I'd have done the same as you - but I am such a coward that wouldn't be true. I'll just say I would like to have the courage to have done as you.
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